Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman testifies Feb. 5 before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Elder Affairs
Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman offered a simple suggestion to state legislators wrestling with the critical shortage of low-paid direct-care health workers: Make the jobs more attractive.
Fishman told the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Elder Services that two things – more money and a legitimate career path to better jobs – were overwhelmingly the most important factors that would attract more workers to the field.
“How can we convince more people to accept and remain in jobs that are physically and emotionally demanding, provide poor benefits, low wages and offer virtually no opportunity for career advancement? When you ask the question honestly, it answers itself,” he told the legislators at a Feb. 5 hearing. Continue reading
The Gerontology Institute’s recent 35th anniversary symposium honored the contributions of elder rights activist Frank J. Manning, who began organizing older adults in the later 1960s to help lead a powerful political movement in Massachusetts and beyond.
During the symposium, Institute Director Len Fishman introduced an eight-minute clip from “Old warrior: Frank Manning and the senior power movement,” a documentary produced in 1994. The video recounts the beginnings of the grassroots movement Manning helped create, including a dramatic rally at Suffolk Downs that brought tens of thousands of older adults together to demand better treatment.
The video captures an important time in the history of elder affairs that contributed to many age-friendly developments, including the creation of the gerontology program at UMass Boston’s McCormack Graduate School.
Speakers Kathryn Hyer, left, and Pamela Herd, right, who were introduced by Professor Edward Miller, center.
Any celebration of an important anniversary should honor the past and also look to the future. So it was at the Gerontology Institute’s 35th anniversary symposium held on campus last week.
A panel of founders and other past leaders of the gerontology program at UMass Boston described the formative years of the institute and the gerontology academic department. They were joined on the Snowden Auditorium stage by the current directors of four Institute centers, as well as two academic program leaders, who discussed their more recent achievements and current priorities.
Later in the symposium, two other speakers turned to the future of gerontology. University of South Florida professor Kathryn Hyer, the incoming president of the Gerontological Society of America, and Georgetown University professor Pamela Herd focused on issues they believed would be priorities for gerontologists in the years ahead.
Two videos of the symposium are available online. The first segment covers the initial panel. The second segment replays the comments and conversation of Hyer and Herd. (These files are streaming in a format not supported by Internet Explorer. Viewing with Chrome, Safari or Edge is recommended.) Continue reading
BOSTON – In August 2019, the five-campus University of Massachusetts system endorsed the 10 principles of the Age-Friendly University, as defined by Age-Friendly University (AFU) Global Network at Dublin City University, joining an international effort intended to highlight the role of higher education in responding to the challenges and opportunities associated with an aging population.
UMass is the first university system to join the AFU Global Network, earning the designation for its campuses in Amherst, Dartmouth, Lowell and the UMass Medical School in Worcester. UMass Boston endorsed the principles and joined the network in 2017.
“I’m pleased that with the support of all five of our chancellors, UMass has received this designation as an Age-Friendly University,” said President Marty Meehan. “It reaffirms our long-held commitment to making a world-class public research university education accessible to all people in the Commonwealth, regardless of age.” Continue reading
As the population ages in the United States and around the world, technology will surely play a role assisting in the care of millions of older adults and help them lead productive lives. But how will that actually work?
Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman joined a panel of medical and business leaders at Harvard Catalyst to discuss the role of technology in serving a rapidly growing population of older adults. A brief video highlights interviews with Fishman and other speakers at the event.
Fishman noted that people currently in their 60s are among the first in history to reach that age with an expectation of living into their 80s or well beyond, and they are planning accordingly. As a result, he said, “there’s an opportunity to have a conversation with people about how technology can help. The technology – some of it is disease-specific, some of it is more to help people stay well. You’re talking about almost 50 million people, that’s a huge market.”
The Harvard Catalyst event was held in June at the Countway Library of Medicine in Boston.
Anne Tumlinson is the nationally recognized eldercare expert who founded Daughterhood, an online community providing support and advice to adult children caring for their aging parents. She is also the founder of Anne Tumlinson Innovations, a research and advisory firm focused on transforming the way care is delivered and financed.
With more than 25 years of research and consulting experience, Tumlinson has often testified in Washington and written on innovation in aging services. Previously, she led Medicaid program oversight at the federal Office of Management and Budget.
Recently she talked with Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman about the evolution of Daughterhood, practical problems facing caregivers and policy issues that affect innovation in the field. The following is an edited version of their conversation. Continue reading
By Martin Hansen-Verma
Qian Jasmine Song, a demographer and sociologist with broad research interests relating to the health of an aging population, has joined the UMass Boston’s Gerontology department faculty as an assistant professor.
Song, who most recently was a NIH/NIA postdoctoral fellow at the RAND Corporation, comes to the McCormack Graduate School from Santa Monica, Calif., with her husband and three-year-old son. After living in a variety of places across the U.S. over the past 12 years, she said had been looking forward to the move to Boston.
“It’s a very beautiful city,” she said. “The ethnic and intellectual diversity, and the whole Boston intellectual community are really attractive to me, as well.”
Song sees Boston as an ideal place to pursue her research interests, examining the effects of migration on physical and mental health outcomes of older adults. Continue reading
Left to right, Gerontology Institute Director Len Fishman, NIA Office of Special Populations Director Carl Hill, Gerontology Institute fellow Laurie Nsiah-Jefferson and guest Shayla Turnipseed.
Carl Hill got right to the point when he brought up the subject of research funding priorities at the National Institute on Aging.
“The ‘A’ in NIA stands for aging but it’s leaning toward Alzheimer’s,” Hill told more than 40 researchers and guests attending the first annual Gerontology Institute Fellows dinner at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Hill, director of the NIA Office of Special Populations, spent a full day on the UMass Boston campus discussing funding opportunities within his institute and its $3.1 billion research budget. He pointed to the NIA’s $425 million funding increase specifically dedicated to Alzheimer’s disease research this year (by comparison, the NIA’s general appropriation for the year increased $84 million).
“We’re really part of the race for a cure,” he told the June 10 dinner audience. “We also want to understand the important determinants and factors that will help us slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.” Continue reading
Elizabeth Chen came to the field of public health later in life. She’s been making up for lost time ever since.
Chen, who had been the chief executive of two companies and a leader in higher education, came to the University of Massachusetts Boston in 2012 as a gerontology PhD student at the McCormack Graduate School. She received her degree in 2016, completing the program faster than any student in UMass Boston history.
Now Chen is about to lead the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs. Last week, Gov. Charlie Baker named Chen to succeed Alice Bonner as the next Elder Affairs secretary. She officially starts her new job June 3.
“We welcome the expertise and knowledge that Dr. Chen will bring to Elder Affairs as the new secretary and look forward to the hard work she will do to build on the progress achieved under [Bonner] that made Massachusetts an age friendly state,” Baker said. Continue reading
Gerontology associate professor Kathrin Boerner will represent the UMass Boston campus this week at the annual University of Massachusetts Faculty Speaker Series in Florida, describing her ongoing research into the relationship between children and their surviving parents later in life.
The events, hosted by the University of Massachusetts Foundation, will feature presentations by one faculty member from each UMass campus. The speakers will be appear March 13 in Palm Beach and in Naples the following day.
Boerner, who teaches at the McCormack Graduate School, was selected as the UMass Boston speaker to discuss her research analyzing relationships between children age 65 or older and a parent who is at least 90 years old. In many individual cases, that became a study of mothers and daughters late in life. Continue reading